Friday, November 3, 2017

Playgrounds Are Fake

Typically, the “playground” is thought of as a place in physical space.

Students eagerly watch the clock tick by, waiting for the glorious moment when they’re given the green light to dart out of the classroom and escape to the “playground.” When our kids are particularly well-behaved and homework isn’t stacked too high, we might reward them with a trip to the “playground,” where they get a chance to cut loose and be kids for a little while. No matter where the “playground” is located, one truth remains constant-- it’s a place where imaginations catch fire.  

But, reflect on the impact that might be felt if, instead of thinking about the “playground” as a place somewhere outside of ourselves, we began approaching it as a state somewhere within…

By isolating the “playground” to specific physical spaces, we limit the boundless opportunities for imagination and growth that are unfolding around us in every waking moment. Equally as valuable to our little ones as them sliding down the jungle gym’s twisty slide is them pretending to be pancake chefs with the dirt in the frontyard garden. Approaching our day as a chance to play the game of the world teaches the powerful lessons to our kids that there are possibilities for fun and learning around every corner, boredom isn’t a thing, and one’s ability to have a good time depends on outlook and not location or circumstance.

This whole world is a playground, playfulness is a mindset, and kids look to us to set the tone. So, are you pissed and stuck in traffic on the way to school, or are you driving your kids in a spaceship that has to make frequent stops for passing asteroids?



Friday, October 27, 2017

Empower To Play

A requisite with any sort of evolution is an expansion of the language needed to effectively communicate the the new status quo. As individuals, relationships, and companies increase in complexity, what was at one time a sufficient way to adequately summarize things becomes decreasingly applicable over time. After ten years of marriage, referring to your wife as your girlfriend is probably not going to make the cut.

In 2012, Champ Camp started as a kids’ summer beach camp. Those first few years, that is precisely what we were. We ate, breathed, and slept beach camp-edness. When asked, “What does Champ Camp do?” the answer was always a no brainer. That is, until it wasn’t.

As time passed, we found ourselves in more and more environments that looked less and less like the beach. We’ve matured into an organization that puts on birthday bashes, hotel parties, community events, and movie nights all year round, with even further diversification on the horizon. Plus, we still do that whole summer beach camp thing. Considering the above, it’s not hard to see that some more inclusive jargon is essential in order to convey the entirety of what Champ Camp has become. Luckily for us, an undeniable commonality is intentionally threaded through every action we take.

Whether we’re playing a giant game of dodgeball in the heat of July on the sands of Manhattan Beach, building a make-believe haunted fort at Kids Night in Playa Vista, or leading a line dance in the Fall at St. Anastasia’s Parish Party, there’s always one thing that we do (and have always done) no matter what our environment looks like:

Empower To Play.

There you go, folks-- that’s our secret sauce. As it turns out, the last thing kids need is to be told how to play. They understand this concept on a level much deeper than us adults can ever hope to remember. Rather, little ones thrive given the feeling they’re empowered to play in whichever way they darn well please. So, next time you see us tossing water balloons at The Point, trick-or-treating in Playa Vista, or boogie boarding in Redondo Beach, you’ll know exactly what we’re up to.

Just playin’,


Friday, May 5, 2017

ChampCamp Fun Facts!

From afar, it could be difficult to figure us out.

As a passerby on the Strand in Manhattan Beach, we don’t blame you for not knowing how to feel about the dozens of kids in brightly-clad rashguards going buck wild on the sand. “Did I just hear sixty children and ten adults yell “OCTOPUS” at the tops of their lungs?!”

While peacefully sippin’ joe in Playa del Rey, it’s completely understandable that you might wonder to yourself, “What the bleep is ChampCamp, and why did their bright green van just meow at me?” as we cruise by you on Culver Boulevard. Yep, the ChampVan meows (long story).
Timmy (a.k.a. "Black Beard") in between takes.

If you hear your friends describing some allegedly epic summer-long party on the sand that they are sending their kids to for the third year in a row, we know that a slurry of uncertainties will inevitably swell up in your mind. “What do they do all day? Is it even safe? What about the gluten??” Please don’t be so hard on yourself-- this is totally normal.

In an effort to shed a bit of light on the above quandaries, as well as answer some of the most common questions that we receive, we’re excited to bring to you ChampCamp Fun Facts! Each of these short little clips features a ChampCamp team member lending insight into some aspect of our Champtastic world. These gems will be comin’ atchya in the near future, so be ready to learn what the word “Panda” means to us, why we build a “House” in the ocean every day, and how we’re able to blow the mind of each and every type of kid that the Universe sends our way.



PS- Check out our first FunFact HERE!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Helicopter Moms Welcome

Listen, we totally get it.
Image Credit: The Huffington Post

Your neighbor’s kids did Champ Camp last year, and by all accounts had a blast. Then in the Fall, you noticed one of your little one’s classmates rocking a mesmerizing tie dyed shirt. When you asked him where he got it, he told you that he made it at ChampCamp, and went on to corroborate your neighbor’s story, raving about his newfound passion for boogie boarding and affinity for afternoon dance-offs. And after all of this, you even saw the giant green ChampVan driving through Downtown Manhattan.

Now it’s Springtime and everyone is planning out their kids’ summers. Naturally, Champ Camp pops right into your frontal lobe. Other parents are constantly asking about your Summer plans, as they’re trying to arrange for a big group of classmates to get the ChampCamp experience together. But, even with all the perceived positivity surrounding us, you’re not quite sold-- and you shouldn’t be.

Once and for all, you decide to get to the bottom of this whole ChampCamp saga. With a detailed interrogation list in hand, you give us a buzz, and we chat for the better part of an hour. To your relief and surprise, we substantiate everything you’ve heard and seen over the past several months-- our high fives & good vibes mentality all but radiates through your iPhone. Suspiciously satisfied, you throw out one last zinger that will either make or break all that’s been built up to that moment. “Can I come watch what you all do down there?” you ask. “Why of course you can!” we reply. Nailed it!

We fully acknowledge the great degree of skepticism surrounding the idea that it’s even possible for your youngster to be completely safe for a week on the beach, all while making memories that add up to this being the best summer of their life, so far. Our ostensibly far-fetched proposition shouldn’t be accepted without a healthy dose of empirical data-- your vetting process should be thorough.

So, by all means, come check us out! Cruise by the week before your child’s session, setup your own undercover camp down the beach to see what we’re up to, or even take it to the ocean and spy on us from a jet ski. Whatever it takes for your confidence in us to rise to the level of the great stuff you’ve heard about us, go do that thing! All that we ask is that you leave ample time to find parking, as the spots on our helicopter mom landing pad are usually taken :).

Clear for takeoff,


Friday, April 14, 2017

Safe & Stoked: 6-to-1 or Bust!

When shopping around for kids’ recreation programs, one of the first questions that parents should, and often do, ask is, “What is your ratio of campers to counselors?” Considering that, in enrolling one’s child in any program outside of the home, a parent is quite literally turning over their most prized possession in the universe to a group of strangers, this is an extremely legitimate inquiry. To compound things, given the seemingly unpredictable environment of a program on the beach, the thought of letting your little one loose to an understaffed organization a mere one hundred feet from the Pacific Ocean is unnerving to say the least.

Lucky for us, we leap far beyond the industry standard in the ratio department, and proudly answer the above question with an emphatic “6-to-1!”

While we’d be lying if we said it’s not gratifying to hear the relief in a concerned parent’s voice when we tell them those numbers, that ratio is also the key to maintaining our success on a daily basis. For our purposes, success is being able to give a “YES” response to the following two self-check queries:

  1. Are our campers safe?
  2. Are our campers stoked?

Objectively, since our first day of camp in 2012, we’ve been in the business of keeping eighty plus kids per day safe on the beach, and here we are in 2017. Much to the help of our vital 6-to-1 ratio, the answer to the first question has been, "Yes" 100% of the time. If it wasn’t we wouldn’t still be here. That’s pretty much the end of that.

The second, more subjective, measure of our success deals with the degree to which our campers are pleased with the general goings-on at ChampCamp at any given point throughout the day. In other words, are we transmitting ample high fives & good fives such that they’re being received, felt, and internalized by every single kid in attendance that day? Admittedly, we’re not wizards, and of course a few campers out of the thousands of who have partied with us over the past five years weren’t fully exhilarated every moment they were with us-- it happens. However, you can bet your hiney that we give a maximal effort to meaningfully connect with each kid, and our glorious 6-to-1 ratio plays a big part in helping us achieve that.

So, next time you’re researching recreation programs for your kiddo, make sure you ask about ratios. And, in the likely chance that you come across a proportion that doesn’t sit well with you, feel free to share our contact info with that organization-- we’d be happy to guide them in the right direction :) .


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

In Defense of Tag

Ticking by at a snail's pace, it’s a daily miracle to many kids that the classroom clock ever strikes “recess time.” With energy abuzz throughout their minds and bodies, most are champing at the bit to hit the playground with unlimited gusto and curiosity. Alas!-- a good ol’ game of tag to get blood flowin’ and let the homework woes drift away! But, not so fast... unfortunately, for some California students, this glorious pastime is no longer an option.

Covered widely by local news outlets, an elementary school in Folsom, California recently banned the wondrous game of tag, along with all other activities where physical contact is a possibility. Citing repeated instances of students playing too rough, the school’s principal decided to do away with a the whole genre of recess games. Having directed youth programs for the past ten summers of my life, I’m the first one in line to empathize with the frustration that’s evoked when a small group of kids acting badly shifts the entire tone of the day for the worse. I’m also quick to grant that, due to the complexity of playground disagreements, coming up with a fix-all solution that keeps everybody happy is quite literally impossible. However, taking away tag to solve the problem of rough play is a broad brushed blunder.

Very little digging is required to unearth the wide-reaching benefits of tag. Physically, the game helps kids develop the sensory-motor skills needed to efficiently move one’s body through space, and begins to build the cardiovascular work capacity required to live a long, healthy life. Mentally, it introduces our little ones to strategy, and provides their brains a necessary break from academic rigor, thereby priming them to continue learning for the rest of the day. Socially, tag gets kids interacting within a group and, when adversity inevitably arises, requires them to navigate their way towards a resolution. When rough tags occur, there’s an opportunity for developing minds to find their voice and figure out why it’s important to speak up against wrongs, and when it’s necessary to do so. Now, while these are all noteworthy benefits of tag, they’re a far cry from the meat and potatoes of the conversation.
Outlawing tag from the playground is an oversimplified, misguided, and shortsighted attempt to patch up dilemmas that call for considerably more forethought and clarity of intention. The issue here is not the fact that tag, or any other activity for that matter, has the potential to lead to horseplay amongst classmates. Rather, the tendency of adults to micromanage how kids play impedes our youngsters’ ability to freely learn how to be humans that eventually go out and independently and effectively maneuver their way through the world.

What will adulthood look like for the child who’s always been protected from conflict on the playground, or for the kid who was never told that his or her actions aren’t in line with how to treat others with respect? You don’t need a crystal ball to see that getting cut off in traffic and experiencing workplace tension are most definitely not going to be cake walks for the former. And, the latter will likely struggle with collaborating on group projects in college and will spend lots of time wondering why people tend to not stick around in their lives all that long.

As opposed to micromanaging play in an attempt to shield our little ones from conflict, we have to do the hard thing. That hard thing is to let our kids be kids, allow them to work through disagreements to the best to their abilities, and step in to guide and teach them when the complexity of the dispute is beyond their years. Instead of taking tag away, comfort kids with hurt feelings when they feel as though they’ve been mistreated, and take the time to educate the instigator on where their actions went awry and how to move forward. While uncomfortable and tedious, these processes are pertinent for growth.

Ironically, when we come across an adult whose behavior we deem as being outside the realm of how a grownup should behave in a given situation, we commonly remark that so-and-so is “acting like a child.” Well, perhaps they’re just making up for lost time, and were never allowed to be a kid when doing so would have been age appropriate.

Aaand in case it’s not yet obvious, we play A LOT of tag at Champ Camp.

Tag you’re it,


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

P: Play!

PLAY! If you spend a little time with us, you’ll quickly find that Champ Camp is passionate about play. Not in the hokey we’re so laid back and fun so sign up now sense, but from the the this stuff is golden, and more of it needs to be shared with your kids ASAP perspective. In fact, the benefits of play are so paramount that, if we weren't passionate about it, I would personally advise you to take your business elsewhere. Play is the bedrock of our organization, and the guiding light for all that we do.

Infusing our kids with many of the big picture ideas that we all hope to acquire on our journey through life, play is the greatest form of informal education. Tinkering with seemingly unlike objects to design new things introduces us to problem solving, out-of-the-box thinking, and the value of patience. Play is restorative, affording our brains the opportunity to recharge from the more structured parts of our lives. Dreaming up a world of robots and castles amidst a pile of Big Blue Blocks in the sand sparks imagination and fires up creativity. Perhaps more importantly, hearing another’s completely different ideas about what they think is possible to create or invent opens the doors to collaboration, empathy, and teamwork. Any way you spin it, play teaches our kids heavy hitting life lessons while simultaneously providing their minds with meaningful engagement.

In a world of constant stimulation, many of us have developed the tendency to look outwards for fulfillment and entertainment, passively waiting for those things to arrive by way of an app, text, or news update. While it might feel exciting for a second, any perceived benefit of this sort is fleeting. Play, on the other hand, encourages contented absorption into whatever is available at a given time and space. Purely, play is full engagement with the moment, without comparison to how things ought to be, or the worry of needing to reach a destination. Perhaps not so coincidentally, those are precisely the things that most of us could use more of in our day-to-day...

Let the games begin!